At Tree Top, we believe that the quality of consumer goods is determined by the ability to identify key attributes that define consumer quality. We work to minimize the inherent variability associated with the identified attributes and strive to provide a consistent product sensory experience to our customers, whether that is direct to consumer or our B2B customers.
What is sensory science?
Sensory specialists provide feedback on products based on taste, texture, aroma and appearance that is then used to report on product quality and consistency, or to make recommendations for improvements. Each day, our QA technicians perform quality checks on sensory specifications for every batch of product we make. The sensory specifications are designed based on experience of technical staff and inputs from consumers. Our technicians go through a training process by the sensory specialist and receive additional refreshment training every quarter to maintain their tasting skills. Besides the product sensory quality checks performed by the QA department, Tree Top also retains a taste panel at our corporate headquarters, which performs double quality checks weekly on products received from the manufacturing plants.
The Tree Top sensory department also provides tools to R&D and CI to make informed product decisions. Here is a few examples of questions sensory can help to answer:
- Which of these prototypes is preferred by consumers?
- Does this new, more efficient, manufacturing process result in noticeable product differences?
- Will consumers notice if we change ingredient suppliers?
- What do we need to change to get these two products to be more alike?
Recently, Tree Top created a sensory wheel for apple chips to help perform quality sensory checks; updated the texture grading scale for apple sauce; performed over 15 internal consumer acceptance tests for new product prototype cutting, formula change or ingredient replacement across apple juice, apple sauce, apple flakes, fresh sliced apple etc.; and updated plant sensory quality grading system for efficiency.
What’s next for Sensory at Tree Top:
Tree Top Sensory department plans to develop a sensory lexicon for the products we produce to help assist with a better comprehensive understanding. In addition, we will assist in developing a new consumer based brix/acid acceptability target, due to fruit variety volume changes.
About the author:
My name is Tianyu Yao, sensory specialist at Tree Top. Prior to joining Tree Top in 2017, I was a master student in Food Science and Technology, Texas A&M University. During my masters work, I spent 2 years in a sensory lab doing sensory research focusing on coffee and meat. Also, I did a 6 month sensory co-op at Campbell Soup. One of the main reasons I joined Tree Top was because at Tree Top we taste every batch of food we make. We were one of the first juice companies to develop and maintain a panel of trained sensory experts who believe everyone deserves good food. I am proud to work for a company who values the taste quality of their product and is picky about the product they put their name on.